Saudi Arabia has announced that it will extend a royal invitation to 1,000 Palestinians to participate in the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage, as reported by state media on Saturday. The invitation is part of the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz’s Haj Guests Programme, which is organised and executed annually by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance, as stated by The Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
The kingdom will host Palestinian “families of martyrs, prisoners, and those who are injured” as part of this initiative. The move has received praise from Hatem al-Bakri, the Palestinian Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, who emphasised Saudi Arabia’s generous support for the Palestinians across various fields, particularly in caring for the pilgrims, according to Saudi news agency SPA.
Al-Bakri further highlighted the significant impact of this invitation on the families of martyrs, prisoners, and the wounded in Palestine. He emphasised that itimg-align-s with the Kingdom’s longstanding support for the Palestinian people and their just cause.
Another official, Sheikh Abdul Latif Al Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, commended the Gulf monarch for continuously caring and supporting the families of wounded or martyred Palestinians.
The Haj Guests Programme, which has benefited thousands of pilgrims since its inception, includes all the rituals of the Hajj pilgrimage, including visits to Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, also known as the Prophet’s Mosque.
Typically, Palestinians who wish to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage have to travel through third-party countries due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel. For example, individuals from Gaza must first travel to Egypt before reaching the Gulf kingdom.
Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia is currently in talks with Israel to enable direct Hajj flights for its Muslim minority, potentially including Palestinians from the occupied territories.
Although Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations, there have been moves towards normalisation between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. However, Saudi Arabia maintains that establishing an independent Palestinian state must occur before diplomatic relations can be established.
Each year, Saudi Arabia welcomes millions of Muslim worshippers from around the world for the Hajj pilgrimage, which usually takes place before the holy festival of Eid al-Adha.
Hajj season is expected to commence on June 26 this year.
The annual Muslim pilgrimage significantly contributes to the Gulf kingdom’s economy, generating billions of dollars and creating thousands of job opportunities.
Earlier this year, the Saudi Hajj and Umrah Ministry announced plans to host “pre-Covid-19 numbers” of pilgrims this year, following the lifting of virus-related restrictions that previously limited the number of pilgrims in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In 2019, approximately 2.6 million Muslims performed the Hajj pilgrimage.